Ghost publishing

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Ghost Publishing is an anonymous publishing movement. The basic philosophy of the movement is in part derivative of the new criticism of the early part of the twentieth century. The new criticism held that a work should be treated as though it were contemporary and anonymous whether it was a text by Tacitus or Hemingway. The Ghost Publishers take the belief one step further and hold that works of literature are most powerful when they are anonymous. Most texts that have come out of this movement are photocopied booklets that are distributed through one of three typical methods: the drop-off, blind mail, and piggy-backing. The most common is the drop-off whereby the writer simply prints his texts and drops them someplace where they are likely to be found, such as a park or a city bus. Blind mail is held by some to be a better method since the likelihood of being delivered is higher than in the drop-off, but some feel that most blind mail deliveries are discarded as though they were junk mail. Some also feel that blind mailing to unknown recipients runs the risk of appearing menacing to some recipients. Piggy-backing is the most controversial delivery method since there is some question as to its legality at least in some jurisdictions. Piggy-backing involves placing anonymous texts inside product packaging without the knowledge or approval of the manufacturer. Some popular items to piggy-back are cases of soft drinks, shoe boxes, and the inside pockets of sport coats.

There are antecedents to the Ghost Publishing including the American minicomic movement of the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet underground publishing phenomena Samizdat, and the hand to hand distribution of many Beat manuscripts of the 1940s and 1950s many of which were circulated in typescript for more than ten years before eventually being published. The collections of various amateur press associations of the United States may serve in some respects as a model for the physical primitivism of the typical ghost published text. The central mainstream literary idol of the movement not surprisingly is Jorge Luis Borges whose Ficciones serve as a model for many of these anonymous writers.

The movement is sometimes referred to by the term Guerilla Publishing which has been co-opted by more overground efforts to publicize small press and independent publications but the anonymous writers’ movement should not be confused with these efforts at viral marketing.